How Dock Ellis Pitched a No Hitter While High on LSD
LSD! I can barely get off my couch on acid!
Often times one can find a bit of history that is truly amazing. Like the invention of the airplane or the telephone or the first person who combined Jack Daniels with Coca-Cola. This story, much like the man with no legs who climbed Mt. Everest, or even that one time you should have been arrested but weren’t somehow because the cops got an emergency call and couldn’t waste their time with you, is in a word, unbelievable. This story is one of the greatest sports legends in not just the history of baseball, but in the history of the world. In 1970, Dock Ellis threw one of the game’s most notable no hitters, but the story starts much earlier than that.
In the spring of 1943, the world was a very chaotic place. The United States was now committed entirely in the fight against the Nazis to the point where professional athletes were even enlisted in the armed services. However, amongst a continent in turmoil, a chemist in Switzerland working at the Sandoz Laboratories discovered something that would change the world forever. In April of that year, Albert Hofmann accidentally tested the 25th distillation of lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, on himself and went for a bike ride experiencing the world’s first acid trip. After that, the chemical found its way into the hands of the CIA, which was trying to find a use for it as either a mind control tool or as a chemical weapon. In the 1960s, LSD made its way into the hands of the public, and the reaction to it became something of legend; music became more vibrant, clothing became more colorful, as the surreal became the norm in many parts of the country. LSD, which was legal until 1967, became the mainstay of the hippie community, and remains so to this day.
LSD is a very difficult compound to describe due to the multitude of different experiences that people have reported throughout history. However, I can give my take on the subject. Personally, I enjoyed LSD and have never had any negative experiences, yet I have heard of them. LSD, to me, felt like mind expansion; it has allowed me to look differently at things in life that I had previously considered to be one specific way. It breaks down traditional barriers that we set in our brain and reinforce throughout our whole life and allows us to see past the mere tangibility of life itself. Ideas and philosophies which you might have previously dismissed can become clear on LSD. Things we take for granted as a society can suddenly change, tasks you’ve done a thousand times become either very difficult or very easy depending on circumstances; music intensifies and you feel a deeper connection to it, colors that you have never seen before appear and upon shutting one’s eyes patterns emerge from the darkness to form incredibly intricate displays of moving art that never seem to repeat themselves. In many ways, LSD unlocked my mind.
Now let's talk about baseball. Baseball is arguably one of the more difficult sports to play. Not only is one of the goals to hit a round ball with a round bat but the ball is moving at 90+ miles an hour that might be aimed at your head, but one must try to hit the ball into fair territory and still avoid the players in the field. Oh, and you have all of about .4 seconds to decide to swing or not. Pitching is no easy task either. The ball has to be thrown to a very specific area with speed and movement in an attempt to induce the batter into missing it or hitting it to a player to produce outs. All in all, it is a very intricate sport. I personally find the mental battle between a pitcher and a hitter to be akin to a Jedi mind war, or at the very least, a poker game. It's a unique moment in sports, just a one-on-one showdown, matching mental and physical prowess. One may think that given the above information about the sport that a pitcher would have an advantage and that no hitters would be a more common occurrence but, to date, there have been less than 300 in the history of the sport. The no hitter thrown by Dock Ellis has one outstanding factor that the others do not however; Dock Ellis pitched his under the influence of LSD-25. As Dock tells it, he flew into San Diego for a game against the Padres, ate some acid and went to party. Two days later he ate some more acid for breakfast, thinking that he was pitching the next day. He was wrong. Dock was in disbelief to the point where someone had to go as far as having to show Mr. Ellis his own name on the lineup to remove any disbelief that he had. He arrived at the ballpark and ate some bennies, which are uppers if you didn’t know, and proceeded to take the mound. Given my opinion on the sport, which I expressed earlier in this article, I find this was the greatest no hitter thrown in major league history. Now he wasn’t perfect, walking eight batters and hitting one with a pitch, but no one could successfully reach base on a hit and the Pirates went on to win the game 2-0.
Now, in terms of LSD thinking, there are a few things about this story that can be interpreted as too strange to be coincidental. When Albert Hofmann first ingested LSD, it was by accident and completely unscientific. Dock ate his LSD on purpose knowing what it would do to him, but he didn’t mean to eat it when he was about to go to work. And the icing on the cake? The name Dock Ellis could also be expressed as Ellis D (LSD), which is one of the funniest jokes I’ve ever heard, but that is part of the thing about LSD. It can open your mind and free your sense of humor to find the jokes that you may have missed otherwise. I know Dock would agree.